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(photo credit: AP)
The director of Palestine TV, Muhammad Dahoudi, has been fired for failing to give enough coverage to Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayad, Palestinian journalists said on Tuesday.
The decision to dismiss Dahoudi was taken by Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior official who is in charge of the PA media.
The move drew strong condemnations from many Palestinian journalists and Fatah activists, who called on PA President Mahmoud Abbas to rescind the decision.
A group of Palestinian journalists in the West Bank accused Abed Rabbo of sending armed thugs to Palestine TV to prevent the sacked director from entering the compound.
A senior Fatah official told the London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi that the main reason behind the decision was Dahoudi's failure to provide extensive coverage of Fayad's activities.
The official said that Abed Rabbo lost his temper last week when Palestine TV failed to dispatch a crew to film Fayad during a ceremony to inaugurate a village water project.
A source in Palestine TV said that Dahoudi and news editors have long been under heavy pressure from Abed Rabbo to devote much of the news bulletins to Fayad's activities and statements.
The source said that Dahoudi, who is a top Fatah operative from the Gaza Strip, has openly challenged Abed Rabbo's decision to fire him, saying he had no plans to step down.
Dahoudi explained on Monday that Abed Rabbo did not have the authority to dismiss him.
"I was appointed by President Mahmoud Abbas and only he has the power to fire me," he said, expressing outrage at the "arbitrary and unjustified" move.
The pressure on Palestine TV and other PA-controlled media outlets is apparently linked to Fayad's desire to run in the next Palestinian presidential election.
A Palestinian editor in Ramallah pointed out that Abed Rabbo and Fayad had formed an alliance ahead of the elections. Although no date has been set for the elections due to the ongoing power struggle between Fatah and Hamas, some PA officials are hoping the vote will take place in January.
The editor said that the official Palestinian news agency, Wafa, was also under immense pressure from Abed Rabbo and his staff to give more prominence to Fayad in its news coverage.
Fayad has yet to decide whether he wants to run in the next election. Although he has repeatedly declared that he's not interested in succeeding Abbas, many Palestinians are convinced that he will run.
On Monday, Fayad met with a group of Palestinian journalists and editors and told them that it was important to hold presidential and parliamentary elections even if the conflict with Hamas is not resolved.
Another Fatah official said the decision to highlight Fayad's activities was taken at the request of the US administration and some EU countries that are interested in seeing the prime minister become the next PA president.
"Abed Rabbo has to do what the American and European donors want, otherwise they will cut off funds," the official claimed.
This was not the first time that Abed Rabbo has made a controversial decision regarding Palestine TV.
A few weeks ago, he issued an order banning the station from covering news related to Tayeb Abdel Rahim, a member of the Fatah Central Committee and a top aide to Abbas.
The row between Abed Rabbo and Abdel Rahim later escalated to an exchange of gunfire between their bodyguards and aides. No one was hurt in the fighting, which ended only after Abbas intervened.
A statement issued by the Palestinian Journalists Bureau in the West Bank strongly condemned Dahoudi's dismissal and the use of militiamen to prevent him from entering his office.
"This unacceptable behavior sets a precedent that will have serious repercussions on the ethics of the profession of journalism," it charged. "The move also jeopardizes important institutions."